WELLINGTON, July 6 – The All Blacks have made four changes to their starting line-up to play South Africa in Auckland on Saturday as they chase a winning start to their Tri-Nations campaign.Prop Owen Franks returns to the run-on side named Tuesday in the place of Neemia Tialata after being among the reserves in the 22-10 second Test victory against Wales on June 26.
Veteran winger Joe Rokocoko returns to the backline ahead of the dropped Zac Guildford, along with the centre pairing of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, who have both recovered from injuries.
Nonu replaces Benson Stanley, while Smith takes over from Richard Kahui, who drops back to the reserves bench.
Coach Graham Henry knows the opening Test will be vital as the All Blacks attempt to wrest the title back from South Africa, who won all three Tri-Nations Tests against their great rivals last year.
"The Springboks are the defending Tri-Nations champions and like us will be keen to kick off their campaign on a winning note," Henry said.
"However, our squad has prepared well and the players are excited by the first up challenge this weekend. It’s going to be a massive kick-off to the competition."
On the All Blacks bench, hooker Corey Flynn and loose forward Liam Messam return for the first time this year alongside prop Ben Franks and lock Sam Whitelock.
Halfback Piri Weepu and flyhalf Aaron Cruden join Kahui in providing cover for the backline.
South African coach Pieter de Villiers delayed naming his team from Tuesday to Thursday because of fitness worries over locks Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw.
New Zealand (15-1)
Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Joe Rokocoko, Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Tom Donnelly, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock
Reserves: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Samuel Whitelock, Liam Messam, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Richard Kahui